Nine is anything but fine.
The Dolphins’ stretch of futility in New England has nearly reached a decade.
The Patriots played like the Patriots and the Dolphins played like the Dolphins in a 35-17 New England victory Sunday.
And as a result, New England’s home winning streak against Miami is now nine games.
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The loss — Miami’s fifth in a row — drops the Dolphins to 4-7 and makes December football irrelevant in South Florida.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lit up the Dolphins for four touchdowns Sunday, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
But no sequence better summed up a game — make that a season — than the Dolphins’ four-play “drive” midway through the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins got a quick stop after cutting New England’s lead to 11 and took over on their own 39.
Even a field goal would make the finish interesting.
Instead, the offensive line gave up sacks on first and second downs, and Jarvis Landry dropped a would-be, first-down pass on fourth-and-11.
Five plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone, and the game was over.
“We gave up two big sacks,” center Mike Pouncey said. “It is not my job to call out whose fault it was, but we just can’t do that. When we have an opportunity to win the football game and put ourselves back in the game, we have to be at our best. Unfortunately, we were not at our best at that time.”
Sacked seven times, Moore was lucky he made it out of the game in one piece. Many did not, including running backs Damien Williams and Senorise Perry. Both left the game with injuries and did not return.
“I’m all right; typical soreness of a game,” Moore said. “It was just one of those days.”
More like one of those seasons.
Nobody has been good on the offensive line this year. Not Pouncey. Not Ja’Wuan James and Jermon Bushrod, neither of whom played Sunday because of injury.
And certainly not Laremy Tunsil, who after an offseason of hype has been an average, at best, left tackle.
But Tunsil, who was responsible for at least one of the seven sacks Sunday, was in no mood to explain what’s gone wrong in his sophomore NFL season.
A Miami Herald reporter asked him three different ways to shed some light on the situation.
Each time, he had the same answer: “I don’t know.”
Coach Adam Gase and Pouncey verbalized at least part of the issue: The Dolphins had to throw basically the entire second half, because of both the scoreboard and their running back predicament. Kenyan Drake is the only healthy back left on the roster after Williams and Perry went down.
Another slow start doomed Miami, which trailed at halftime for the 10th time in 11 games.
The Dolphins were out-gained by more than two-to-one at intermission, converted just 1 of 5 first downs and allowed Brady to throw two touchdown passes — and still likely would have gone to the break within a score if DeVante Parker was the slightest bit interested in fighting for an end-zone jump-ball
Moore targeted him on second-and-10 at the New England 15, and while the throw could have been better, Parker did not even jump for it, instead allowing Stephon Gilmore to pick it off and end the threat.
“I’ve just got to attack it,” said Parker, whose third season is shaping up to be a dud. “I’ve just got to attack the ball.”
Said Parker, who had just one catch for 5 yards: “Yeah, I’m frustrated. We’re not playing how he should be playing.”
Moore is not blameless, either. He insists he “can throw a better ball” than he did to Parker. He offered up another pick late in the game, finishing a pedestrian 23 of 34 for 215 yards and a touchdown.
But Moore is Miami’s third option at quarterback. He was never expected to be a star. Pouncey, Tunsil and Parker were, and they have not been.
And until the Dolphins find some players who consistently show up against the best teams, the gulf between not just them and the Patriots (9-2), but them and mere respectability, will remain huge.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror, man-to-man, and tell the truth,” safety Michael Thomas said. “You know what I’m saying? We’ve just got to go to work try a find a way to get one win.”